Saturday, April 26, 2003

Woke up around 11 at Bernardo's country house. I thought it was a nice place the night before, but in the daylight it was even more impressive. You could appreciate the beautiful mountains surrounding and it was a perfect, sunny day. Billy and I hung out by the pool for about an hour, waiting for Bernardo to wake up. It was really nice out there...I felt bad for Billy, it was his final hours in Brazil...his flight back to Rio was leaving at 5 that day.

After Bernardo woke up we drove back into the city so Billy could check out of his hotel. Then we went to the Bahia Shopping to meet Christi/Spain and get some food before Billy took off. I had a chance to check my e-mail and I heard back from Marcella!!(from Porto de Gallinas hostel) I had her number and address so I would contact her later on.

Bernardo, Billy, Christi, and I had a good meal and Billy tried farofa for the first time...imagine being in Brazil for a full week and never having a meal with farofa!! Crazy. Anyway, finally it was time for him to leave...we had a great time together in BH. I wish you the best, Billy...hopefully I'll be going to the theatre one day to watch your movie!

Christi and I headed back to my hotel to get my stuff so I could take it to her house. I was a bit peeved that they made me pay for half that day since I checked out so late...it was a pointless argument though...and paying half was better than nothing.

We headed up to the Rodoviaria, since we were nearby, to check on bustimes for the next day. We wanted to do a day trip to a nearby historical city, Ouro Preito. Since we needed to get an early start we chose the first bus out at 8 the next morning. Ouch.

We headed to Christi's place which is on the southeast side of the city a bit away from the action. It was a decent neighborhood though and she had a nice small apartment with a great view. She had moved in there with the girl who owns the place, Alessandra, who was not around at the time that we got there and they also have a third roomate, Leticia. We hung out and talked all evening...about traveling and other things. I still think it is cool that so many people are down here (or just travelling around the world in general) for so many different reasons. Christi came specifically to get experience in teaching Spanish, something I had many questions about since that is what I'm thinking of doing. Her roomate Leticia came home later that night and she was pretty cool (and not hard to look at). Poor me, stuck in an apartment with three women! Life is tough.

After awhile, Alessandra also showed up with her boyfriend and they were cool. They had a couple Iguanas as pets that we "played" with for awhile. They are pretty cool animals...don't make much of pets though...sort of like birds or snakes as pets. I never really understood that one. I am a big animal lover but I prefer pets that are a bit more entertaining...or atleast know you are there, but to each his own.

I was pretty tired at that point so in the end I decided not to go out. It had been a pretty exhausting couple of days. I gave Marcella and Bernardo a call to let them know I wasn't going to make it out for the evening and spent the rest of the night checking out Leticia...er...talking to the girls.

Sunday April 27, 2003

Got up painfully early and went to wait for the bus to get to the bus station. One big downside of living outside the city center is it is a big process to get anywhere. City buses don't really run on a schedule in Brazil...it is more like you just go out and wait until the bus you want goes by (I think most cities or more like this...Houston was the exception. The local buses have a schedule, which they never kept anyway so I'm not even sure what the point was). Well, if you live on a route where only one bus passes it is a real crap shoot if you are in a pinch for time...you could wait 2 minutes, but you might wait 30. Well, the bus didn't cooperate that morning so we were forced to take a taxi. Luckily it wasn't too expensive.

We got to the bus station just in time to grab a quick bite before leaving. The busride to Ouro Preito (OP) was about two hours, so it was pretty quick. This is one advantage that Belo Horizonte has over Sao Paulo that makes me want to go back there to work. There are MANY great historical cities that are just a short busride away so you can do day trips to them. Also, the city is surrounded by mountains and supposedly has lots of good hiking, something I am interested in also. In Sao Paulo, you could travel for two hours and still be inside the city it is so huge...although supposedly there are some decent beaches nearby, but it is about to be winter so that is a non-factor.

Anyway, we arrived in OP and upon first site we were extremly impressed. It is an absolutely beautiful little mountain city.

We were all psyched up for a full day of acting like tourists...hitting museums and churches and taking an inordinate number of pictures. We started off at one of the larger churches near the Rodoviaria that was really nice...but more impressive was the view of the city. We snapped several pictures and then moved downhill towards the city center. We spent the afternoon visiting several museums, churches, and shops. In the main square of town, there was a small show being put on by school children that we watched. We ended up meeting this guy in the tourist info. office that was a photographer for lonely planet. He had taken the picture that they used for the cover of the Spanish version of the Lonely Planet Brazil (which Christi had of course). He was a great guy...American guy named John who was from Seattle I think. Anyway, like so many other foreigners I meet down here, he had come to Brazil about 15 years before for vacation and never left. This place is like a black hole!!

We had a great lunch in the plaza and then continued on sight seeing and walking around the city. Our last stop was one of the more interesting ones of the day...we visited an old goldmine. We got a great lesson on the slaves who mined the gold and a bit of the history behind OP. This is a must do for anyone going to Ouro Preito.

After the mine we were pretty much done sight-seeing so we stopped for a few drinks...nice and refreshing. We then hiked back across the (very) hilly city to the bus station so we could head back to BH. OP was such an amazing place...the kind of place one who loves mountains dreams of retiring to and I strongly recommend anyone coming near here to visit it. We had a wonderful daytrip.

Back in the city I gave Marcella a call and we decided to meet up at this new bar where she works called Gratzie a Deus (Thank God) at 10:00 that night. Christi was too beat to go out so again I was to be on my own...but it sort of presented a problem for her as there is no extra key for getting in and out of her building and apartment. Well, as far as I was concerned it wasn't a big deal, but we ended up having this ridiculous exchange about how we would do it. Anyway, I decided right then and there that I was going back to the hotel the next day. I felt like I was far too much in the way in their tiny apartment and I didn't want to be a problem for the girls.

Anyway, I showered up and I was on my way to meet up with Marcella. It was cool to see her again!!! We hung out at the bar for about 3 or 4 hours and it was so fun. Her friends were all great!!! Like just about all Brazilians, they were happy to welcome a new person into their group! We spent a lot of the night talking about the US, how I ended up in BH, and why I wanted to stay Brazil working for a few months. They all thought it was great.

There was one guy that I met while at the bar that was from Michigan...I forget what he was doing in BH...working I think or going to school...anyway it isn't important. He was super lame though and just couldn't get in his head why in the hell I wanted to work in Brazil where I would make so little money. I tried to explain to him that the point of my working down here is NOT to try to get rich (although, of course I need the money) but more the reason is to LIVE here...to have the experience of what it is like and get to know a city really well and meet some people. This concept was completely beyond him which in the end isn't so surprising since he graduated from Michigan:) Anyway, I guess it doesn't surprise me as probably to most people it doesn't make sense.

One thing that was pretty cool that night was that one of Marcellas friends had pictures from a month long trip she and a few friends had done during the (Southern hemisphere) summer a couple months before. They had travelled exactly the reverse path that I had in the north of Brazil...they had even gone on the SAME boat I did from Tutoia to Paranaiba. They had all the same pictures that I had taken...even in Pipa they had pictures with Alex and Rene from the So Easy Bar!! It was so cool to see all the pictures and we traded stories! They had done the trip just about a month before me so we didn't cross paths but still it is good to see that Brazilians are out there getting to know their fantastic country. Many of the Brazilians I have met (especially since returning South) have not travelled much in their country...although it seems like an inordinate number of them have been to Disney World. Go figure.

Anyway, Marcella and I went with one of her friends to another bar for one last beer and we ran into more friends of hers. One beer turned into 3 (by the way, in Brazil they have a word for this, which I learned that night, "Saidera". I often find that in Spanish...and now Porteguese...they have great words for little things like that that we just don't have in English) and finally we were going home. I was going to take a taxi but they insisted on driving me...which made things a bit tough. I knew the vicinity of of where the apartment was and I had the street name, but Marcella's friend who was driving did not know it. We circled the neighborhood for about a half hour before finally finding it! I felt pretty bad. All in all, it was a really fun night and it was cool to see Marcella again. Another night that convinced me that BH might seriously be the place for me!

Monday April 28, 2003
Woke up at 10 at Christi's, packed and headed back for the hotel. I was trying to decide if I would head for Pouso Alegre the next day or stay one more night and go to a concert with Marcella on Tuesday. In the meantime, I knew that I would leave soon so I wanted to get a full day in at the internet place at the Bahia Shopping since it was very good place with fast computers.

I spent most of the day there getting the website up to date and sending journals. I eventually heard from Marcella and she said the concert was sold out...so I called Raquel (a friend of Doug McLean's...I was going to be staying with her in PA) and told her I would be there the following afternoon.

Back at the hotel, Bernardo came and picked me up to go to dinner. We went to a cool pizza place where he knew the owner...and actually I had the first decent pizza that I have had in Brazil. Apparently there is some kind of tomato sauce ration in this country b/c every single pizza I have gotten doesn't have any sauce on it! Anyway, that night they were good...once again I was really tired and I couldn't shake it. I was beginning to think there was something wrong with me...maybe I picked up mono somewhere along the way. Must have been from drinking after someone:)

Anyway, Bernardo and I said goodbye but I have pretty much decided that I am going to go back there. I have to go to SP still though to meet up with Sunny who is coming to visit. In case something great presents itself I will return to BH to live after that for a couple months. It should be cool. Bernardo and Carlos have told me that it will be easy for them to help me find something so that is all good. Anyway, overall, I absolutely LOVED BH as I have said many times and although it is not really on the tourist circuit, anyone that doesn't go there is really missing out!

AC

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